Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Episcopal Bishop of Virginia recalls Episcopal priest from her missionary position at Renk Theological College in Southern Sudan

The Diocese of Virginia reports today that Bishop Peter James Lee recalled the Rev'd Lauren Stanley from her missionary position in the Diocese of Renk in the Sudan following a request from the Archbishop of the Sudan for her removal last March.

The Diocese in an official statement released today stated that the Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Rev. Dr. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, requested that she be removed from her position after her public comments at the most recent Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia "were deemed offensive to partners of the Diocese in the Episcopal Church of Sudan."

Bishop Lee complied and ordered Lauren Stanley in March to return to Virginia.

Last January a resolution came came before the Annual Council that opened the door to the blessing of same sex unions in the Diocese of Virginia. It included an amendment that was moved from the floor stating that the Annual Council "affirms the inherent integrity of and blessedness of committed Christian relationships ..."

Russ Randel, a long-time advocate for overseas mission in the southern Sudan, rose in opposition to the amendment, warning that such an amendment would do irreparable harm to the long-standing mission relationship between the Diocese of Renk and the Diocese of Virginia.

Lauren Stanley defended the amendment, saying that that "holy love" and "blessedness" goes together. She told the council that it would not be a problem for the Sudan, saying that the people don't care. The amendment passed and the resolution was adopted.

Until the request by the Archbishop of the Sudan for her removal, Lauren Stanley was an appointed missionary of the Episcopal Church and a lecturer at the Renk Theological College, teaching theology, liturgy, and English and served as a chaplain to the students. She is now "seeking a new mission placement for which she has the support of the bishops," the Diocese of Virginia statement said. The diocese announced that she plans to go on a speaking tour to talk about her experiences.

In addition, she will be attending this summer's General Convention as a staff member of the Diocese of Virginia's advocacy publication, The Center Aisle.

23 comments:

The Underground Pewster said...

Good job in
1. Posting the original exchange, and 2. Recalling it and posting it here.

And how long had she worked with the people of Sudan before this 'd'Oh" moment?

Yet another reason to ignore GC 2009.

tjmcmahon said...

I must say that I have a great respect for the Archbishop of Sudan and his ability to say more in one or two sentences than the average TEC bishop can manage in a 20 minute sermon.

redleg82 said...

"She told the council that it would not be a problem for the Sudan, saying that the people don't care."

Sort of at odds with what the Archbishop of Sudan has been saying in multiple forums about TEC's "progressive" agenda putting lives at risk during Christian witness, especially in Muslim areas.

RSchllnbrg said...

Ah yes, and I was there to hear this silliness. At the time there was no way to contradict her statement. The mood in the room was all hers. She received great approval from the delegates for having had the "courage" to speak "the truth" that no one in the Sudan cared about our handling of Biblical issues.

Only it seems, she was not right. It was just us Americans again telling those less sophisticated Africans what they should think and why.

And of course, there will be no opportunity to revise the sentiments expressed at the next Council. We in this Diocese (and this country) are so sure of ourselves, even when we are wrong. I suppose at so many levels we'd rather believe our own make-believe spin than ever be held accountable for maybe, just maybe, getting things wrong. Another example opf how the listening process is about getting people to listen to us I suppose.

Of course it only works one way ... At the same meeting, when I politely (you know it BB) asked a question about how Bishop Lee would stand by contradictory statements made on SSB's there was no opportunity to hold Bishop Lee accountable. After 10 seconds my mike was turned off and I was warned not to speak again about the same topic. No ... the mood was all in favor of the prevailing spin. Not so much for looking any deeper for inconsistencies or inconvenient truths.

And oh well, you know truthiness can be just so very hard to define. Unless you say what people want to hear.

Macca said...

Lauren Stanley ought not to have pretended that her own opinion was the opinion of Sudanese people, who weren't there to contradict her.

Anonymous said...

Schellenberg asked a question. Bishop Lee answered the question. Schellenberg said "may I ask a follow-up?" That violates the rules of order, so Bishop Lee said no.

Schellenberg asked an awkwardly phrased question. Blew his chance. Hardly anyone else's fault, now then, is it? Spin spin spin.

redleg82 said...

What spin could there be? The "rules of order"? The rules are there ain't no rules, the sooner the orthodox realize this better for them.

Its funny that someone was actually arrogant enough to believe that whatever they said in Virginia wouldn't make it back to the unsophisticated Luddites back in the Sudan. The long arm of the internet strikes again to shine light into the darkness.

BabyBlue said...

I think Bishop Lee should have taken the follow-up.

bb

Piedmont said...

This woman was removed from her position at her parish in Pennsylvania before she arrived in Virginia.

Congregations and Clergy
Diocesan Life, April 2001

Allentown, Grace Church
Bishop Paul Marshall granted the request of the vestry of Grace Church, Allentown, with the agreement of the diocesan Standing Committee, that the pastoral relationship between Grace Church and its rector, The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, be dissolved, effective February 28.
http://74.6.239.67/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=lauren+stanley+grace+allentown+bethlehem&fr=slv1-adbe&u=www.diobeth.org/Diolife/diolife12.html&w=lauren+stanley+grace+graces+allentown+bethlehem&d=Ue9liUxISnRD&icp=1&.intl=us

Milton said...

So she is "seeking another mission placement", is she? Assign her to a homeless mission house in VA and give her the opportunity to do unto the least of these if she is sincere about service and doesn't have a compulsive need to spew verbally to a like-minded close-minded audience.

Anonymous said...

A homeless mission house in Virginia would probably be a piece of cake compared to Christian mission work in Sudan. Whatever the merits/demerits of Stanley's remarks that caused this incident, there is no question that being a Christian missionary in Sudan is not a plush billet. Those who have heard her speak/preach about conditions in the Sudan have no question of her dedication to advancing the Faith in a very harsh environment.

jschwarz said...

BB says: "She told the council that it would not be a problem for the Sudan, saying that the people don't care." This is sort of a disingenuous version of what Lauren Stanley said. She actually said (something like) that the people of the Sudan were not concerned about what we were doing in our church on these issues because they were more concerned with staying alive; that (she said) in any case they think we all (in TEC) are crazy (presumably she meant for wasting time arguing about what must appear to them as such trivial issues as sex). By all accounts this is probably a fairly accurate general assessment. (One hears similar accounts from others who return from having done actual mission work among the people in Africa - that the concern with sexual issues is mostly among the conservative hierarchy, while the people are more concerned with real issues of poverty, violence and hunger).

There is no sign that the people of Sudan are particularly obsessed with issues of sexuality or with what options TEC chooses to pursue as pastoral responses to its gay members within its own context in the United States. The Archbishop's response indicates that conservative members of the hierarchy, who from the comfort and security of their position in Sudanese society probably do not themselves have to worry about daily survival or going hungry, are unfortunately more obsessed by such issues (and by the possibilities they offer to play power politics within the Anglican Communion) than by the suffering of their people.

But there is no indication that such obsessions of bishops reflect the concerns of everyday people in the Sudan, who (as Rev. Stanley correctly pointed out) have more pressing life-threatening concerns to deal with than defending conservative theological orthodoxy about sex.

I read about Rev. Stanley's recall in the Diocesan e-communique, and am still angry at its injustice. The Archbishop's response was outrageous, petty and oppressive, and I seriously doubt that it reflected the views of those actually engaged in mission to help the people of Sudan or the ordinary Sudanese people themselves. I was on the floor of the Council that day (being the delegate who offered the successful amendment to add the term "blessedness" to the resolution, during discussion of which these comments by Mr. Randall and Rev. Stanley occurred) and heard the exchange. Whatever anyone might have felt about the merits of the resolution or my amendment, no rational person could possibly have interpreted anything Rev. Stanley said as remotely "offensive" to anyone - certainly not to anyone in Sudan. Do conservatives really consider it "offensive" for someone simply to express an opinion publicly at a Diocesan council?

The Archbishop's actions in seeking her recall from Sudan (where by every account over the years she has been doing wonderful work) on these absurd grounds bespeaks a person deplorably devoid of any moral sense of basic decency or fair play - or genuine concern for the real spiritual and physical needs of his people.

BabyBlue said...

She said that the bishops don't really matter and the people don't care.

While her concern about the truly horrific needs of the people of the Southern Sudan are indeed commendable, she served four years in Renk, her lack of respect for the authority over her - including Archbishop Daniel who had been the Bishop of Renk before his elevation - was out of order, especially for one who is ordained to the sacred order of priests.

Russ Randall warned the Virginia Annual Council that such actions would have a detrimental affect on the Diocese of Virginia's relationship with the Sudanese Church. He was right - I couldn't believe that he was so casually dismissed. Much has changed for the Diocese of Virginia these last two years.

Can you truly be questioning Archbishop Daniel's "genuine concern for the real spiritual and physical needs of his people"? Do you know him?

It was clear leading up to last summer's Lambeth Conference that the Sudanese Church was lobbied hard by the Episcopal Church. It was certainly a shock to many when it was Archbishop Daniel himself who spoke so eloquently and with conviction for the orthodox at Lambeth, which basically shut down the "witness" of Gene Robinson at the gates.

I don't know why Lauren got so reckless at Council - she's been so careful to separate her public actions from her private convictions. For some reason, she tossed it all to the wind - I was as surprised as anyone - and perhaps "blessedness" means more to her than her ministry to the people of the Southern Sudan.

That is interesting that you seem to be able to speak for the people and church leadership of the Sudan, sir. What matters is not that we are offended, but that our host is offended.

What came across so sadly, so tragically in Lauren's outburst was that she appeared to no longer care what her Sudanese hosts hold dear, what they hold true - to the point of the spear and their own martyrdom.

bb

Karen said...

I've just commented on this matter over at SF and T19 who link to BB's entry. Many are focusing only on her remarks to diocesan council and the sexuality issue, but I doubt that was the ONLY issue or concern, perhaps more like the last straw. There have been some concerns among many of us re: Lauren's teaching and beliefs since May 2006.

See my comment at SF:
http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/22634/#364387

and what I wrote at Lent & Beyond back in May 2006, here in response to Lauren's apparent universalism:

http://web.archive.org/web/20060811150105/lent.classicalanglican.net/?m=20060515

Nikolaus said...

"But there is no indication that such obsessions of bishops reflect the concerns of everyday people in the Sudan, who (as Rev. Stanley correctly pointed out) have more pressing life-threatening concerns to deal with than defending conservative theological orthodoxy about sex."

Hmmm. I suppose the more pressing life-threatening concern must have been forcing leftist theological revisionism about sex!

jschwarz said...

BB: "Can you truly be questioning Archbishop Daniel's 'genuine concern for the real spiritual and physical needs of his people'? Do you know him?" No I do not know him. But, as Jesus told us, it is by their fruits we will know people: we don't gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles.

It is people's actions that say who they are, and Archbishop Daniel's fruit here is an unjust and callous removal of a person who was generally recognized as doing great good among the people whom the Archbishop is supposed to be caring for, just so he can continue his new role (formulated at Lambeth) of playing hero to conservative factions in the current rather tawdry theologico-political struggle for power within Anglicanism - a struggle which (on both sides I grant you) often seems very un-Christ-like.

The Jesus whom we all acknowledge as Lord, and who in his life, death and teachings showed us the "Way" in which we are to live into a faithful and salvific relationship with God, told us what is most important: to act lovingly and with compassion, to feed the hungry, cure the sick, clothe the naked, comfort those suffering from oppression, etc. etc. This is precisely the "mission" that Lauren, according to all accounts, seems to have been engaged in "on the ground" in Sudan in an admirable fashion.

Jesus, by contrast, never spoke of homosexuality (let alone the purported "sinfulfulness" of people living in loving, faithful caring loving same-gender relationships that we in their faith communities experience as being God-given, "blessed", and in every morally and spiritually significant indistinguishable from men and women joined in holy marriage). Nor did he speak much at all in condemnation of sexual practice specifically (except in the context of broader issues such as licentiousness, selfishness and unfaithfulness, which in ANY context keep us separated from love and thus from God).

Rather he preached a "good news" that our God is a God of unconditional love and forgiveness, who reaches out to forgive and welcome (i.e., "include") ALL who accept the invitation to themselves live lives of unconditional love and forgiveness into God's kingdom of love: a kingdom, however, into which the prostitutes and tax-collectors will enter before the hypocrites, scribes and pharisees (namely, those who cling to doctrinaire obsessions with traditionalistic, legalistic and literalistic adherence to codes of purity in a way that demeans and excludes people to whom they feel superior).

BB: "What matters is not that we are offended, but that our host is offended." No. The offense we take, to be taken seriously, must be at least reasonable. What really matters is truth, justice, and acting with an unconditional commitment to love and compassion, as taught by Jesus. All of these were violated here.

Nikolaus said...

"...as Jesus told us, it is by their fruits we will know people: we don't gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles."

Well, more specifically this is how our Savior told us we would know false teachers. It seems far more clear to me that this applies to those who are trying to change what the Church has taught for centuries. If one applies this passage to the actions of GC03 and the leadership of the Episcopal church it seems crystal clear that it is the "new thing that god is doing" that is bearing bad fruit in the form of division.

Furthermore, "our God is a God of unconditional love and forgiveness, who reaches out to forgive and welcome (i.e., "include") ALL who accept the invitation to themselves live lives of unconditional love and forgiveness..."

But this is not true is it? Jesus told Mary Magdalen to go an sin no more didn't he? God clearly offers love and forgiveness but is it "unconditional?" I looked up both "love" and "unconditional" in Strong's Concordance of the Bible and found no passage that says His love is unconditional. If I have missed it I will gladly accept correction.

God offers us His love and forgiveness but doesn't He expect repentance and amendment of life? Aren't we to live in obedience to His will? Isn't His will shown to us through Holy Scripture and teachings that have been upheld for thousands of years? By what authority are these teachings reinterpreted?

Anonymous said...

RE: "What really matters is truth, justice, and acting with an unconditional commitment to love and compassion, as taught by Jesus."

Right -and the Archbishop of the Sudan is acting in truth, justice and love, as taught by Jesus, who by the way certainly did preach against sexual immorality. It is not truthful to allow people to teach who also support scandalous sin. Nor is it just. Nor is it at all loving, as it is harmful for people to engage in scandalous sinful behavior.

But again . . . those who are of another faith and believe a different gospel in TEC would necessarily have opposing definitions to the words "truth," "justice," and "love."

jschwarz's definitions of truth, justice, and love merely show just how mutually opposing the two gospels and faiths now struggling in one organization are.

That is why there will be no peace in TEC for many many years to come.


Sarah

Nikolaus said...

BB: "What matters is not that we are offended, but that our host is offended."

Schwarz: "No. The offense we take, to be taken seriously, must be at least reasonable. What really matters is truth, justice, and acting with an unconditional commitment to love and compassion, as taught by Jesus. All of these were violated here."

Does one go as a guest into the home of another and criticize the host for their tacky decorating, poor dress or bad food? Doing so, would one expect the host to apologize or withdraw the invitation?

Anonymous said...

This "woman priest" - as Noll has pointed out on StandFirm - was teaching in a theological college not doing medical mission work!

Let's be clear: she is an heretic, she advocates heresy and should neither be a missionary nor a priest.

If she's looking for "another mission posting" she should first of all repent, and then come to Christ. In her case, such repentance would, at a minimum, involve permanent cessation of all involvement and advocacy for same-sex relations; resignations from all orders of ministry; and a commitment to exercise no further ordained or lay leadership positions in the Christian church --- all in perpetuity. Then she may be fit to go and work, unpaid, in that homeless shelter.

This is true repentance: this is what the church has always required of sinners. Whether it is her or Todd Bentley or thrice-married Bennison or whoever.

bob said...

She might try a new gig. Ann Redding, the Muslim Episcopalian layman is between jobs at the moment; I can't think of a better act to go on the road together. The Yoke of Infidels Tour. Now getting totally stoned all across Africa. Maybe the one time; with their message it's likely the first tour will be the only one.

jschwarz said...

Nikolaus: 'Does one go as a guest into the home of another and criticize the host for their tacky decorating, poor dress or bad food? Doing so, would one expect the host to apologize or withdraw the invitation? '

Except that: (1) In this case, the statements were not made in the host country, but halfway around the world, in the midst of debate on the floor of the Diocesan Council in Lauren's home diocese. I myself have only met Lauren a couple of times in passing. But my sense is (and BB herself seems to have suggested as much) that she is someone who has generally known when to be tactful and quiet and I doubt that she said anything untoward while in the Sudan that might have jeopardized her mission there and her ability to help people. (Which raises the interesting question of how the remarks even came to the attention of the Archbishop in Sudan - who one hopes has better things to do than monitor the proceedings of every local church convention around the world on Internet blogs; I assume that, in a loving spirit of Christian fellowship, some conservatives present at the Council took it upon themselves to e-mail the Sudan, putting the worst possible spin on these very innocent remarks, in the hopes of stirring up some trouble for someone viewed as an "opponent" - kind of reminds me of when I was a Catholic and members of ultra-orthodox fringe groups would wander around different parishes on Sundays, listening to the sermons so they could write "reports" to the Vatican if the priest said anything too liberal; sneakiness and maliciousness seem too often to be regarded as Christian virtues on the right!).

and (2) Lauren's remarks were NOT insulting, demeaning, or in anyway comparable to your analogues. Most sane people took them as complimentary. Essentially, she was saying that the people of Sudan DID disagree with us on matters of sexuality (she did clearly state that), but that mostly they would not really care about what we thought or said in our own local conventions on such issues because they thought we were all crazy anyway and they had much more pressing things to worry about. That seems to me to be giving them credit for being a lot smarter, and having much weightier concerns, than us. I have asked others who were there, and not one person took her remarks as in any way insulting or demeaning to the Sudan or its people (or to its Anglican church, which she did not even mention).

I do not deny that one should avoid offending one's host; I merely pointed out that people often take offense where no offense was (by any reasonable standards) given.

And speaking of her purportedly being offensive, I was mildly amused by BB's claim that 'She said that the bishops don't really matter ....' and by an unsubstantiated reference to 'her lack of respect for the authority over her - including Archbishop Daniel who had been the Bishop of Renk before his elevation'

(1) I do not remember Lauren saying anything like that bishops don't really matter. I actually cannot even imagine ANY priest standing up in the Virginia Council and saying that publicly with Bishop Lee in the chair! (That would REALLY be rash!). (2) I do not see how anything she said at Council or elsewhere in any way showed "lack of respect" for her hosts or ABp. Daniel. I have read comments on other (more liberal blogs) from people who would know better that she apparently had a fairly good working relationship with him while he was simply her bishop (and before he got elevated to Primate and decided he would rather pursue a crass political agenda as new-found darling of the worldwide conservative movement within the Communion!).

And (3) members of Truro and other departed congregations in Virginia are really going to talk about how awful it is to have "lack of respect" for one's bishop?! After years of treating Bishop Lee (a good, albeit no-nonsense, leader with whom they simply had strong theological differences but who WAS their bishop, and who seems to us on the more progressive side, prior to the break, to have consistently gone out of his way to accommodate the conservative parishes' every whim in order to preserve peace - while, by contrast, consistently refusing to allow progressive parishes to pursue their own pastoral needs in blessing the holy relationships of those gay and lesbian couples who are valued and loved members of our parish communities) with somewhat more respect than one would show some vile object the cat had dragged in.

They refused to allow him to come to their churches or confirm their children, and called him by the most outrageous and insulting names, because he was supposedly some kind of evil or unfit leader (apparently simply because he voted to confirm Gene Robinson at GC-2003). Talk about "lack of respect" for bishops and people with authority over you!

Anonymous said...

"...she is someone who has generally known when to be tactful and quiet..."

You're kidding,right? On the basis of personal experience, I can assure you that this description fits her about as well as it fits Falstaff or Joe Biden.